Paleo Chicken Adobo

Photography Credit: Sabrina Modelle

Do you know the Filipino dish Chicken Adobo? I can’t even say the words without my mouth watering.

This one-pot recipe calls for simmering chicken in a tangy, vinegar-based sauce, which I’ve riffed to make gluten-free and Paleo. It’s a very tasty spin on your typical weeknight chicken dinner that everyone can enjoy!

Chicken adobo is an extremely popular dish from the Philippines made with meat cooked in vinegar and soy sauce – this much is generally agreed upon. From there, ingredients and opinions vary widely. There are 7,000 islands in the Philippines, and on each one, every lola (grandmother) and tita (auntie) has their own recipe.

I first discovered chicken adobo as a child. I did not like meat, and my mom was constantly trying to find ways to get me to eat it. What I did like was anything sour – including vinegar – so my mom thought to try chicken adobo. I loved it and it became a staple in our house.

When I had to go gluten-free in 2012, I began adapting some of my childhood dishes to be gluten-free, including this chicken adobo. The only big change I had to make to the recipe was to switch out the soy sauce for tamari, which is soy sauce fermented without wheat. It has a deeper and richer flavor than soy sauce.

Paleo Chicken Adobo

When I want to make a Paleo version, I just swap the soy sauce or tamari for coconut aminos, made from fermented coconut sap. This ingredient has a flavor is similar to light soy sauce and tastes a little sweet.

I also add a little fish sauce to my version. Fish sauce has a powerfully pungent aroma, so don’t be scared when you open the bottle! It adds a nice background savory flavor that brings the whole dish together.

When developing my gluten-free and Paleo recipes, I consulted with my sister-in-law to make sure I was on the right track. She is from the Philippines and my brother says she makes THE BEST adobo. My final recipe tastes very similar to hers, so I’m feeling pretty good about it!

At my house, we love to eat our chicken adobo over coconut rice or garlic fried rice, but it’s also great over plain steamed rice or even mashed potatoes. Sometimes I like to make some extra sauce to eat with veggies. If you choose to do that, just make sure to use a big enough pot.

Paleo Chicken Adobo Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

You can also buy whole chicken legs and separate them yourself into drumsticks and thighs. You want 3 to 3 1/2 pounds of total meat.


  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 4 chicken drumsticks (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup tamari or coconut aminos (or low-sodium soy sauce, if you don't need this to be gluten-free!)
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar, honey, or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 2 bay leaves (dried, not fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine ground pepper
  • Coconut rice or plain steamed rice, to serve


1 Prepare the chicken: Pat chicken thighs and legs dry with paper towels and season very lightly with salt and pepper.

2 Prepare the sauce: Whisk together the tamari, vinegar, fish sauce, and sugar or honey in a measuring cup or bowl and set aside.

3 Sauté the ginger and other seasoning ingredients: In a heavy-bottom, high-sided skillet, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add the ginger, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Sauté for 5 minutes until fragrant. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly so that garlic doesn’t burn. Scoop the solids from the pan with a slotted spoon and set them aside on a plate, leaving the flavor-infused oil behind.

Stovetop Chicken Adobo

4 Sear the chicken: Turn the heat up to medium high, and brown the chicken on all sides to crisp up the skin. Once skin is nice and golden, pour the sauce over the chicken. Add the ginger and other seasoning ingredients you sautéed in the last step. Bring the sauce to a rolling boil.

Stovetop Chicken Adobo

5 Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 25 minutes.

6 Pull the chicken from the pan and allow to rest at room temperature.

7 Reduce the sauce while the chicken rests. Raise heat to high and boil the sauce for about 10 minutes or until the volume is reduced by about half and the sauce looks nice and thick.

Stovetop Chicken Adobo

8 Serve the chicken over rice and cover with the adobo sauce.

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Sabrina Modelle

Sabrina Modelle started The Tomato Tart in 2010. Since then, recipes and photographs have been featured in media outlets, worldwide. The site features handmade, homemade, food that happens to be gluten free. When she’s not working, Sabrina can be found with her nose in a cookbook and a dog in her lap.

More from Sabrina

Paleo Chicken Adobo

Showing 4 of 9 Comments

  • Ger

    Can you tell me how many calories are in this dish? It looks amazing but I am trying to eat healthily as I am on a diet.

  • Blondie

    What types of veggies would this go well with? Thanks!

  • Alida @My Little Italian Kitchen

    An interesting way of cooking chicken and it looks really delicious and super tender too!

  • Connie Veneracion

    Filipino adobo with soy sauce is a regional variant. White adobo (with salt and no soy sauce) is much older. White adobo variants are still cooked today.

  • sameer

    Hi Sabrina,
    Your site is absolutely great and inspiring for a starter like me. Though I came across your site just now and have already bookmarked it. Will like to connect with you sometimes soon.

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